Quite a Yarn

Lion Brand Yarn Co. got a lion’s share of attention last month thanks to Martha Stewart and a poncho. If you didn’t hear, the domestic diva wore a hand-crocheted poncho – a gift from a fellow inmate – the day she was released from the West Virginia prison where she served five months for lying about a stock sale. Knitting fans (they’re young and hip these days) immediately deluged Lion Brand with requests for yarn and the pattern.

It took Lion Brand executives a couple days to realize the groundswell, but once they did they contracted a speedy crocheter to create an approximated version of Martha’s “Coming Home” poncho. Two days later, Lion Brand posted digital images and a pattern that people could download for free – a big jump on the competition. Yes, there’s competition in the knitting world. Martha also stoked the interest by plugging Lion Brand during a live chat on her Web site. So far, more than 500,000 patterns have been downloaded from Lion Brand’s Web site. The company is mum on how much extra yarn it has sold, but you can bet it would make a pretty big ball.

That’s not the only success story out of Lion Brand. Besides its Web site and downloadable patterns, the 127-year-old company is doing well with another technology: digital print on demand. Ilana Rabinowitz, director of consumer marketing at Lion Brand, describes the company’s efforts in an article in DM News’ Deliver supplement, which is included with this week’s issue. Lion Brand uses a Web-based POD service from APT Digital Marketing Solutions that lets customers choose from the company’s 60 most popular patterns and create a customized book with as many patterns in whatever combinations they want. Each pattern is discounted, and the covers can be personalized so they can be given as gifts or for teaching.

Twice a week, APT gathers the information it needs to digitally print the catalogs, providing Lion Brand with a wealth of data about what its customers want, instead of executives playing a guessing game. Rabinowitz says the process is automatic, requiring no human intervention, and there is no waste. Also, the profit margin on the POD catalogs is 20 percent higher than the mass-market books, and the company saves on postage and inventory. Not bad at all.

Lion Brand is just one of the many companies featured in Deliver that are creating and using the latest technology in printing, fulfillment and delivery operations. Enjoy.

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